Authorities Expecting The Sixth Seal? (Revelation 6:12)

New York Times

By SAM ROBERTS

JULY 17, 2014

Here is another reason to buy a mega-million-dollar apartment in a Manhattan high-rise: Earthquake forecast maps for New York City that a federal agency issued on Thursday indicate “a slightly lower hazard for tall buildings than previously thought.”

The agency, the United States Geodetic Survey, tempered its latest quake prediction with a big caveat.

Federal seismologists based their projections of a lower hazard for tall buildings — “but still a hazard nonetheless,” they cautioned — on a lower likelihood of slow shaking from an earthquake occurring near the city, the type of shaking that typically causes more damage to taller structures.

“The tall buildings in Manhattan are not where you should be focusing,” said John Armbruster, a seismologist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “They resonate with long period waves. They are designed and engineered to ride out an earthquake. Where you should really be worried in New York City is the common brownstone and apartment building and buildings that are poorly maintained.”

Mr. Armbruster was not involved in the federal forecast, but was an author of an earlier study that suggested that “a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed.”

He noted that barely a day goes by without a New York City building’s being declared unsafe, without an earthquake. “If you had 30, 40, 50 at one time, responders would be overloaded,” he said.

The city does have an earthquake building code that went into effect in 1996, and that applies primarily to new construction.

A well-maintained building would probably survive a magnitude 5 earthquake fairly well, he said. The last magnitude 5 earthquake in the city struck in 1884. Another is not necessarily inevitable; faults are more random and move more slowly than they do in, say, California. But he said the latest federal estimate was probably raised because of the magnitude of the Virginia quake.

Mr. Armbruster said the Geodetic Survey forecast would not affect his daily lifestyle. “I live in a wood-frame building with a brick chimney and I’m not alarmed sitting up at night worried about it,” he said. “But society’s leaders need to take some responsibility.”

Sorry, Trump: The Iranian Nuclear Horn Continues to Grow

Sorry, Trump: Iran Is Still Building Better and Better Ballistic Missiles

March 7, 2020 Topic: Politics

How will it end?

by Stratfor Worldview

Greater attention will be given to Iran’s missile and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programs from now on. The September drone attacks on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and the January missile attack on two military bases in Iraq that left 109 U.S. military members diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries highlighted Iran’s increased willingness to use its missile and UAV arsenal for tactical and strategic objectives.

Iran’s missile program is an integral component, if not the crown jewel, of its armed forces, and Tehran considers the program essential to national security. The United States, however, wants to significantly constrain Iranian missile development in future negotiations that would also cover Iran’s nuclear program and its support for regional militias. But to reach a deal, the United States will have to narrow its conditions. This will limit the prospects of an agreement under U.S. President Donald Trump’s maximalist demands.

Almost from the time the Iranian missile program was created in 1979, its importance was embedded into the Islamic republic’s psyche. Before he was deposed in the Iranian Revolution, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi pursued his ambition to build the Middle East’s most advanced and powerful military force. But it withered after the United States cut off military support in the revolution’s wake. The outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980 demonstrated just how few military options Iran had left. Under the shah, it boasted the region’s most capable air force. But without U.S. support, the country was unable to maintain the aircraft it had acquired, leaving it unable to answer the Iraqi missile and airstrikes that pummeled key urban centers like Tehran.

In response, Iran sped development of its missile and rocket capabilities in a bid to counter Iraq. Iran acquired a number of Soviet-designed Scud-B short-range ballistic missiles from Libya, Syria and North Korea. In 1985, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) created its own military units, including its own missile force, in hopes of reverse-engineering the Scud-B missiles with the help of North Korea, which had itself used the Scud-B to create the Hwasong-5 missile. By the end of its war with Iraq in 1988, Iran was able to open a manufacturing plant to produce its own Scud-B variant, the Shahab-1 ballistic missile. But before that, Iran and Iraq both targeted one another’s urban areas in exchanges of fire that became known as the War of the Cities. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians evacuated Tehran as the combat raged.

The experience of the war taught Iran the strategic value of using missiles to break the morale of opponents’ populations and raising the economic cost of attacking Iran. Since then, Iran continued to pursue an advanced and diverse ballistic missile arsenal, often with North Korean guidance. In the 1990s, Iran developed the Shahab-2, its own variant of the Scud-C missile (equivalent to North Korea’s Hwasong-6). While the Shahab-2’s range of 500 kilometers (310 miles) improved slightly on its predecessor’s, it still fell within the category of a short-range ballistic missile. At the same time, Iran also developed a medium-range ballistic missile based on North Korea’s Hwasong-7 (another reverse-engineered Scud). The Shahab-3, with a range of 2,000 kilometers, could reach most of the Middle East.

Iran’s Evolving Missile Priorities and Development

As it worked to develop its missile program with North Korea’s help in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, Iran focused on acquiring ballistic missiles with a strategic aim of deterring its adversaries from pursuing to war with it, an objective it learned from its Iran-Iraq war experience. From a tactical perspective, however, those missiles gave Iran few battlefield advantages; the rudimentary navigational systems on early Shahab variants would often miss their designated targets by as much as a kilometer, on average. While this left them ineffective in hitting specific battlefield targets, they retained strategic value in targeting urban areas, where precision was not as important.

The uptick in Iran’s own use of its ballistic and cruise missiles and its increased proliferation of missiles to its allies, particularly in Yemen and Iraq, suggests that Iran is becoming more willing to deploy its more advanced missile systems as their accuracy and capabilities improve. Granted, with most of the operations, the decision to use them tactically has often come in response to the actions of others.

Since 2017, Iran has launched missiles five times from inside its own borders — the first such strikes since 2011. In 2017 and 2018, Iran launched attacks against Islamic State targets in Deir el-Zour, Syria, using the Zolfaghar and Qiam-1 short-range ballistic missiles to retaliate for Islamic State-claimed attacks in Tehran and Ahvaz. Several of those missiles failed, proving to be largely inaccurate. In 2018, Iran launched seven Fateh-110 missiles against the Iraqi headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran; several party leaders were killed when one missile hit the room where they were meeting. In 2019, several Iranian cruise missiles, thought to be Soumars, landed short of Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil processing facility. Finally, in January’s attack on an Iraqi military base housing U.S. troops, Iran used 11 Fateh-313 and two Qiam-1 missiles to hit two sites, with several other missiles failing in flight. The accuracy of the attack remains a subject of study, but initial satellite evidence suggests a greater degree of accuracy than the 2017 and 2018 attacks in Syria. Nevertheless, operationally most of Iran’s ballistic and cruise missiles appear to remain relatively inaccurate in a tactical sense, albeit with continued improvements. Iran found greater success with the UAVs it used against Abqaiq and Khurais.

Outlook and International Concerns

Iran’s ballistic and cruise missile programs are of increasing concern for the United States and other Western countries for several reasons. First, Iran has shown for decades that it is willing to transfer missile and rocket systems to its regional allies who have shown a willingness to use them. Second, the United States and Western countries fear that Iran may eventually develop an ICBM that could reach destinations far beyond the Middle East. This is precisely why they oppose Iran’s space program, considering its dual-use capabilities. In addition, Iran’s strategic missile program and any future ICBMs will be used to establish a nuclear deterrence if Iran can develop a nuclear warhead capable of being delivered by missile. Third, Iran has shown it is willing to use its missiles and drones against civilian targets, as evidenced by September’s attacks on Saudi Arabia. And finally, the programs improve Iran’s ability to inflict casualties and damage on U.S. and allied forces in the region.

Iran is not likely to easily agree to negotiations with the West that significantly cover its missile program. Indeed, Tehran fought hard to ensure that negotiations with the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama focused solely on Iran’s nuclear program. The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal and U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 that implemented it contain ambiguous wording that gave Iran wiggle room to continue testing missiles without directly breaking either agreement. Resolution 2231 says that “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology, until the date eight years after the JCPOA Adoption Day [October 2023].” Iran has argued that none of its ballistic missiles have been “designed” with the intent to deliver nuclear weapons and that it being “called upon” is not the same as stronger language like “shall not” that is often found in similar resolutions — giving it the room to continue its activity

The European signatories to the JCPOA have typically agreed with Iran’s interpretation and say that Iran’s missile tests and space launches go against the spirit of the agreement, but they typically do not go as far as calling them an outright violations. But as Iran becomes more willing to use its missiles in an operational setting and continues to ramp up its nuclear program, Europe’s tone has slowly shifted closer to the White House’s position. Continued operations by Iran will only make it more difficult for the United States and increasingly Europe to accept compartmentalizing talks on a successor agreement to the JCPOA. At this point, from the perspective of the United States and Europe, the two issues are becoming increasingly intertwined as a result, which does not bode well for future talks if the West demands significant constraints on Iran’s missile program.

That said, Iran has signaled in recent years that it may be willing to reach an understanding with the West about its missile program. In 2017, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran would not develop missiles with a range beyond 2,000 kilometers, near the upper end of its Soumar and Khorramshahr missiles, and Iranian military leaders, including those in the IRGC, have reiterated that range limit. Nevertheless, the West still would likely demand that range restraints be written into an agreement, making it more difficult to achieve a future deal

Iran’s perception of threat in the Middle East has not changed. The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA has led Iran to realize that even if it signs another deal with the United States, there’s nothing to prevent a future administration from negating it. So Iran would still feel compelled to continue to develop new missiles. In addition, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan all remain violent theaters, and a resurgence of the Islamic State or a successor group cannot be ruled out. Finally, the increasingly aggressive foreign policy postures staked out by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will not soften if Iran signs a deal with the West. Indeed, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia would view any deal with significant constraints on Iran’s overall regional strategy as an opportunity to expand their own influence, much like Iran saw the fall of Saddam Hussein as an opportunity to expand its influence in Iraq.

Simply put, with that threat perception in mind, Iran is unlikely to budge significantly on the red lines for its missile program, unlike its willingness to make concessions with its nuclear program. Many of the same strategic and tactical factors that drove Iran to invest heavily in its missile program remain in place and cannot be reversed overnight. This does not bode well for future U.S.-Iran talks until the United States and others are willing to restrict their demands to missiles with ranges beyond the Middle East. In the meantime, Iran will continue to work to boost its missile arsenal’s accuracy and capabilities.

Russia is Threatened by Babylon’s New Nukes

Russia Says New U.S. Weapon Threatens Nuclear War

© Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ashley Berumen/Commander, Submarine Group Ten/U.S. Navy The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Tennessee arrives at the Trident Refit Facility dry dock at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, for a maintenance period, August 13, 2019. The vessel is capable of carrying up to 20 submarine-launched ballistic missiles with multiple warheads, one or two of which are believed to be equipped with the W76-2 warhead, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

Russia has criticized the Trump administration’s pursuit and deployment of low-yield nuclear warheads, arguing it may raise the prospects of a nuclear conflict. At the same time, however, the United States estimates its top foe has up to 2,000 such warheads.

Russian Foreign Minister Maria Zakharova on Friday blasted the $28.9 billion budget proposed for the Pentagon’s nuclear modernization program, along with the additional $15.6 billion earmarked for the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s efforts to revamp the U.S. nuclear warhead arsenal. Among the weapons being developed and deployed is the W76-2, a nuclear warhead with lower yields that Zakharova and others contend could make them a more readily-available option in the event of a conflict.

“We note that Washington is not just modernizing its nuclear forces, but is striving to give them new capabilities, which significantly expands the likelihood of their use,” Zakharova told a press conference.

“Of particular concern in this regard are U.S. actions to increase the range of low-power assets in its nuclear arsenal, including the development and deployment of such munitions for strategic carriers. This clearly leads to lowering the ‘threshold’ for the use of nuclear weapons,” she added.

But the concept of low-yield nuclear weapons dates back to the Cold War, and both countries have developed such capabilities.

A Pentagon spokesperson told Newsweek that “Russia currently has approximately 2,000 non-strategic, low-yield nuclear weapons. This includes nuclear torpedoes, nuclear air and missile defense interceptors, nuclear depth charges, nuclear landmines, and nuclear artillery shells—more than a dozen types. None of these are limited by any current arms control treaties.”

“If Russia believes the W76-2 lowers the threshold for nuclear use, then it must explain why its own non-strategic, low-yield nuclear weapons don’t likewise increase the likelihood of a conflict going nuclear,” the spokesperson said. “It is more likely that Russia recognizes the W76-2 deployment as a demonstration of U.S. resolve, thereby contributing to deterrence of any nuclear attack.”

The U.S. and Russia have long accused one another of developing tactical nuclear devices, perhaps less destructive than their larger counterparts but still extremely more powerful than even the most earth-shattering conventional munitions. The five-to-seven-kiloton W76-2 may produce a third of the detonation force of the relatively primitive atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, but explodes with up to 500 times the strength of the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or “Mother of All Bombs (MOAB).”

The W76-2 warhead was revealed in last year’s budget as part of the Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. “Expanding flexible U.S. nuclear options now, to include low-yield options, is important for the preservation of credible deterrence against regional aggression,” the document noted, accusing Russia of pursuing its own low-yield warhead program.

© Russian Ministry of Defense The Russian military tests the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle at the Dombarovsky Air Base near near Yasny in Russia’s Orenburg province, December 26, 2018. The weapon was said capable of traveling more than 20 times the speed of sound, delivering a missile faster than any existing defense. Russian Ministry of Defense

In January, Newsweek reported that the W76-2 had been fielded, armed to a Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). The following month, the Pentagon announced that the low-yield warhead had been deployed as part of the Trump administration’s efforts “to address the conclusion that potential adversaries, like Russia, believe that employment of low-yield nuclear weapons will give them an advantage over the United States and its allies and partners.”

The Pentagon also announced last year that it would be looking into developing a nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM-N). Both W76-2 and the SLCM-N “are measured responses to close gaps in regional deterrence that have emerged in recent years,” the Pentagon spokesperson told Newsweek.

“The employment of the W76-2 has not changed the United States’ threshold for using nuclear weapons,” the spokesperson said. “Rather, it raises the threshold for nuclear use by potential adversaries by addressing adversary perception of advantage, improves our nuclear deterrent, allows the U.S. to negotiate from a position of strength, and brings an enhanced assurance element to our allies.”

As for the Pentagon itself, the nuclear-related portion of its $705 billion budget for 2021 includes funds devoted to revamping nuclear command, control and communications, the new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, the B-21 Long-Range Strike Bomber, Long-Range Stand-off Missile and the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent.

Speaking frankly at his testimony to the House Armed Services Committee last week, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Army General Mark Milley again brought up Russia as the top priority for U.S. nuclear modernization efforts. “They are the only country on the Earth that represents a, no kidding, existential threat to the United States,” he told lawmakers.

“Every man, woman and child can be killed by the Russians, and we can do the same, hence deterrence,” Milley added. “Maintaining a guaranteed nuclear enterprise is critical relative to Russia. With respect to China, their nuclear enterprise is growing rapidly.”

The Pentagon spokesperson agreed, but noted that “the U.S. is not attempting to match or counter adversaries system for system.” Instead, “modifying a small number of existing SLBMs addresses the imbalance in non-strategic nuclear weapons and ensure our deterrence remains strong in the face of the changing nuclear environment with both Russia and China,” the spokesperson said.

But Moscow has dismissed this line of reasoning, arguing that Washington was the clear aggressor.

At a Pentagon press briefing last month, U.S. defense officials revealed that the U.S. military had conducted a “mini-exercise” simulating a scenario in which “Russia decides to use a low-yield limited nuclear weapon against a site on NATO territory.” The U.S. hit back with a simulated nuclear strike one official only characterized as “limited” in nature.

Russia responded to the revelation with outrage, accusing the U.S. of fear-mongering and normalizing nuclear war with the “sick” exercise. On Friday, Zakharova further castigated the U.S. approach to nuclear modernization, telling reporters: “One gets the impression that in Washington they have decided to purposefully consider nuclear conflict as a viable political option and create the corresponding potential for this.”

She accused the U.S. of trying to justify its actions by blaming Russia and China. “We consider such plans destabilizing,” Zakharova argued. “A much more effective way to ensure national security is to continue the policy of arms control and establish peaceful interaction with other states, to which we again call on the United States.”

The Trump administration abandoned the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (IN) Treaty in August, after accusing Moscow of developing a banned missile capable of traveling within the 310- to 3,420-mile restricted range. The president has also dismissed Russian attempts to extend their bilateral New Strategic Reduction Arms Treaty (START), unless a new warhead-limiting framework was established involving new platforms like hypersonic missiles and additional countries such as China.

The State Department reiterated this offer for a trilateral arms arrangement Thursday on the 50th anniversary of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian rejected it. Beijing, which has significantly less nuclear warheads than Moscow and Washington, seeks multilateral cooperation, but not limitation.

“China has repeatedly reiterated that it has no intention of participating in the so-called trilateral arms control negotiations with the U.S. and Russia. This position is very clear,” Zhao said Friday. “The pressing issue on nuclear disarmament at the moment is for the United States to respond to Russia’s call to extend the New START Treaty, and further downsize its huge nuclear arsenal. This will create conditions for other nuclear weapon states to join multilateral disarmament talks.”

Iraq takes new steps against virus; Antichrist’s sermon canceled

Iraq takes new steps against virus; Sadr sermon canceled

March 7, 2020

Members of the civil defense team spray disinfectant to sanitize surrounding of the Kufa mosque, following an outbreak of the coronavirus, in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq. — File picture

NAJAF — Iraq on Friday evening announced further measures to contain the novel coronavirus, after representatives of Iraq’s top Shiite cleric took the rare step of not delivering his weekly sermon to worshipers.

The Iraqi government’s crisis unit said shopping centres will only open three hours a day, schools and universities will be closed until March 21, and public administrations will only open for a few hours a day, effective immediately.

Foreign nationals arriving from France and Spain will be denied entry.

Iraq has reported four coronavirus deaths and 38 infections.

Authorities had already closed the borders with neighboring Iran, which has seen the world’s second-deadliest outbreak, and banned the entry of foreign nationals travelling from there and other badly affected countries.

Schools, universities, cinemas and other public spaces had been closed for the past week, but restaurants, malls and cafes have remained open.

On Friday, representatives who usually read Ali Sistani’s address at a packed mosque, broadcast live on state television, did not appear.

Religious authorities had already closed the shrine of Imam Hussein, grandson of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), where his sermon is usually delivered, to mitigate the risk of contagion.

The 89-year-old Sistani is based in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of Karbala, and never appears in public.

An official at the site in the holy city of Karbala told AFP that “the cancellation of Friday prayers at the Imam Hussein shrine is a first since 2003”, the year an American-led invasion toppled veteran leader Saddam Hussein.

Sources close to Sistani’s office confirmed the unprecedented nature of the decision.

Authorities are particularly worried about coronavirus spreading via Shiite holy sites, which attract millions of pilgrims including many from Iran.

But on Friday numerous pilgrims flocked to the area near the Karbala mausoleum, and a road linking two shrines in the city was still open to pilgrims, AFP journalists said.

Provincial authorities have barred non-residents from entering Karbala province from Friday.

Sistani had dedicated part of his last two sermons to the health situation in the country of 40 million.

The virus has fuelled panic among Iraqis who say the war-ravaged country’s health system cannot handle the epidemic.

In Najaf, the mausoleum of Imam Ali, son-in-law of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), was open to the public on Friday after Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr personally pushed for it to be re-opened.

Hundreds of his supporters gathered for prayers in the nearby town of Kufa — Sadr‘s birthplace — on Friday, AFP journalists reported.

Sadr did not attend, but sent a representative to deliver his sermon.

In Samarra, another holy Shiite site north of Baghdad, religious authorities cancelled a second pilgrimage in the space of a week.

Iran on Friday announced a surge in coronavirus cases and 17 more deaths, including an advisor to the foreign minister, raising the total number of people killed to 124. — AFP

Hunting for Victims Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Israeli forces seen patrolling near the Israel Gaza border Gaza on Tuesday early morning January 20, 2009Daniel Bar On – JINI

Opinion The Israeli Army Doesn’t Have Snipers on the Gaza Border. It Has Hunters

Gideon Levy

They’re the best of our boys. One is a “musician from a good high school,” another a “boy scout” who majored in theater.” They’re the snipers who have shot thousands of unarmed protesters along the Gaza border fence.

In the Gaza Strip there are 8,000 permanently disabled young men as a result of the snipers’ actions. Some are leg amputees, and the shooters are very proud of that. None of the snipers interviewed for Hilo Glazer’s frightening story in Haaretz (March 6) has any regrets. If they are feeling at all apologetic it’s because they didn’t spill more blood. One was mocked in his battalion with “here comes the killer.” They all act like murderers. If their actions don’t show it – more than 200 dead as a result of them – then their statements prove that these young men have lost their moral compass. They are lost. They will go on to study, to have careers and to raise families – and will never recover from their blindness. They disabled their victims physically, but their own disabilities are more severe. Their souls were completely twisted. They will never again be moral individuals. They are a danger to society. They lost their humanity, if they ever had it, on the shooting berms facing the Gaza Strip. They are the sons of our friends and the friends of our sons, the young people from the apartment across the hall. Look how they talk.

The soldiers’ talk we once knew – the collection of testimonies on the Six-Day War published in English as “The Seventh Day” – turned into the talk of butchers. Perhaps that’s for the best – we have spared ourselves some hypocrisy – but it’s hard not to be shocked at the depths to which we have sunk. They recalled the number of knees they shot. “I brought in seven-eight knees in one day. Within a few hours, I almost broke his record.” “He got around 28 knees.” They shot at unarmed young men and women who were trying in vain to struggle for their freedom, an issue that couldn’t be more just. “The regular scenario is supposed to be that you hit, break a bone – in the best case, break the kneecap – within a minute an ambulance comes to evacuate him, and after a week he gets a disability pension.”

Not enough for you? “The objective is to cause the inciter minimal damage, so he will stop doing what he’s doing. So I, at least, would try to aim at a fattier place, in the muscle region.” Still not enough? “If you mistakenly hit the main artery of the thigh instead of the ankle, then either you intended to make a mistake or you shouldn’t be a sniper. There are snipers, not many, who ‘choose’ to make mistakes.”

They knew who they were facing. They don’t even refer to their victims as “terrorists,” only “inciters.” One compared them to members of a youth movement.

“Even if you don’t know their precise ‘ranks,’ you can tell by the charisma who the group leader is.”

They chose their victims by their charisma, with a sniper’s precision. Their “leadership aura” has destined young men to a life of disability in the cage that is Gaza. But that was not enough. They become bloodthirsty as only young incited people can be. They wanted more blood, not just blood, a child’s blood. Not just a child’s blood, but in front of his family.

“‘Let me just once take down a kid of 16, even 14, but not with a bullet in the leg – let me blow his head open in front of his whole family and his whole village. Let him spurt blood. And then maybe for a month I won’t have to take off another 20 knees.”

They wanted blood from a boy’s head only to spare themselves the need to take down 20 more knees. They identified their victims’ age by their shirts: Dress shirts for the older ones, T-shirts for the youngest.

None was court-martialed. Correction: One got seven days in military jail for shooting a sheep. Soldiers in the world’s most moral army don’t shoot sheep. With 200 dead and 8,000 wounded, they think “the restraints on us are shameful.” That is their shame. They are our shame. They, and their commanders. They and the army that orders them to shoot at protesters as if they were “ducks who chose to cross the line.”

People who shoot ducks aren’t snipers. They’re hunters.

Trump’s Brilliant Foreign Policy

Trump’s Abandonment of Nuclear Deal with Iran Backfires

Reinhard Jacobsen06 March 2020

Photo: Protests after U.S. decision CC BY 4.0to withdraw from JCPOA, around former U.S. embassy, Tehran, on 8 May 2018. CC BY 4.0

By Reinhard Jacobsen

VIENNA (IDN) — The quarterly report on Iran released by UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on March 3 has revealed a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of enriched uranium since its last report. The stockpile stood at 1,020.9 kg in February, up from 372.3 kg in November 2019, reports Jane’s Defence Weekly.

This 648.6 kg increase is raising international concern as it marks a significant breach of the 300 kg stockpile limit imposed on Iran by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed between Iran and the P5+1— China France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States — on July 14, 2015. The nuclear deal was endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, adopted on July 20, 2015.

“There have been no major changes in other parameters of Iran’s nuclear programme, with enrichment levels not exceeding 4.5%. The JCPOA limits Iran’s enrichment to 3.67%,” adds Jane’s Defence Weekly.

The JCPOA includes Iran’s own long-term plan with agreed limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, and will produce the comprehensive lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme, including steps on access in areas of trade, technology, finance, and energy.

Iran has sufficient fuel for a bomb,” says New York Times. But adds: “So far, the evidence suggests that Iran’s recent actions are calculated to pressure the Trump administration and Europe rather than rushing for a bomb.”

The newspaper argues: While for the first time since U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal, Tehran appears to have enough enriched uranium to produce a single nuclear weapon, “it would take months or years to manufacture a warhead and deliver it over long distances”.

For sure not a supporter of the Iran regime, the global newspaper takes much of the wind out of the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s sails. In a press statement on March 5, 2020, Pompeo refers to newly appointed IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi’s two new reports on March 3 “that heighten already serious concerns that the Islamic Republic of Iran is hiding its nuclear material and nuclear activities”.

Iran, says Pompeo, is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran’s safeguards agreements, under that Treaty, require it to declare nuclear material to the IAEA and provide IAEA inspectors with access for verification, he adds.

“Iran’s intentional failure to declare such nuclear material would be a clear violation of its safeguards agreement required by the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The regime must immediately cooperate with the IAEA and fully comply with its IAEA safeguards obligations. Otherwise, the NPT isn’t worth the paper it is written on.”

According to Pompeo, IAEA’s latest reports are all the more troubling “because we know that Iran continues to lie about its past nuclear weapons program and concealed a vast archive of records from those efforts when it concluded the nuclear deal – not to mention its lies about downing a civilian airliner, and its suppression of the extent of its coronavirus outbreak. Given Iran’s prior covert nuclear weapons program and ignominious record of duplicity, any undeclared nuclear material or activities in Iran today would be an extremely serious matter.”

Grossi, an Argentine diplomat who has spent most of his life working on nuclear issues, said it was urgent for “Iran immediately to cooperate fully with the agency” by allowing it access to the sites, and to answer additional questions “related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities”.

In response, Iran said it rejected the agency’s new rounds of questions because it had been cleared of responsibility to answer for its nuclear past. Iran, the report quoted Tehran as saying, “will not recognize any allegation on past activities and does not consider itself obliged to respond to such allegations”.

One year ago, on March 4, Grossi’s widely respected predecessor Yukiya Amano, a Japanese diplomat, remarked to IAEA’s Board of Governors, “Iran is implementing its nuclear commitments”. Amano, who died in July 2019, urged Tehran to continue adhering to the deal, known as JCPOA.

The IAEA’s March 2019 quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program, released publicly just days after Amano’s statement, contained additional details demonstrating that Iran is abiding by the deal’s terms. It noted that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium is below the 300-kilogram cap set by the JCPOA and that Iran has not enriched uranium above the limit of 3.67 percent uranium-235, far below the 90 percent level considered useful for weapons purposes.

The report noted that the agency has had access to “all the sites and locations in Iran which it needed to visit”.

Amano also continued to defend the importance of the IAEA’s independence in evaluating information related to its efforts to monitor peaceful nuclear activities. He emphasized that the agency “undertakes analysis and takes action in an impartial, independent, and objective manner”.

Amano’s March 4 statement is not the first time that he pushed back against attempts by some nations to direct the IAEA’s verification work. “If attempts are made to micromanage or put pressure on the agency in nuclear verification, that is counterproductive and extremely harmful,” he said, adding that “independent, impartial, and factual safeguards implementation is essential to maintain our credibility”.

Although Amano did not identify specific states, Israeli officials repeatedly called on the IAEA to visit undeclared sites in Iran and follow up on materials that Israel stole from an Iranian archive in January 2018 and shared with the agency later in the year. In September at the UN General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu specifically called on the IAEA to visit a site identified by Israeli intelligence as housing materials and documents related to Iran’s past nuclear weapons program. (See ACT, October 2018.)

Taken together, as the New York Times emphasizes, the findings and the demand for more intrusive inspections “take the standoff between Washington and Tehran into new territory”.

U.S. President Trump’s decision to abandon what he called a “terrible deal” has backfired for now. Iran has moved from complying with the accord’s strict limits on uranium production to beginning to rebuild its stockpile. Iran’s leaders appear to have allowed the IAEA to document these violations, which are likely to drive home the fact that it is responding to Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign with one of its own.

“The situation is a paradox,” Mr. Grossi said in a recent interview in Washington, his first since taking over at the IAEA. “What we’re verifying is the gradual diminishing compliance with the agreement we’re supposed to be verifying.”

So far, experts note, the evidence suggests that Iran’s actions are incremental and calculated to pressure European governments and the Trump administration, rather [IDN-InDepthNews – 05 March 2020]

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

Babylon the Great Threatens the Iranian Nuclear Horn

US tells Iran it must let inspectors into its nuclear sites

Published 13:56 March 6, 2020 Updated 16:50 March 6, 2020

The US Special Representative for

Hook demanded that the Islamic Republic, Washington’s arch-enemy in the Middle East, immediately ensure that UN inspectors have access to sites where suspected illicit nuclear enrichment activity is currently taking place, moves that constitute major violations of the 2015 nuclear deal that was signed by the US, UK, Germany, France, Russia, China, and Iran. The deal was designed to shut down Tehran’s nuclear enrichment capabilities in exchange for economic sanctions relief. The Trump administration pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018 after Iran refused to end its sponsorship of terrorist organisations in the Near East, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip-based extremist group Hamas.

The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency hoped to gain access to certain sites in Iran after it published its regular quarterly report which revealed that Tehran has nearly tripled its stockpile of highly enriched uranium since November.

The nuclear watchdog’s findings have raised new questions about the Islamic Republic’s possible nuclear weapons-related activities at three secret locations that were previously undeclared to international observers. The IAEA never visited any of the sites in the past and Iran has said that it had “no obligation“ to grant the international community and access to the sites.

Hook did not mince his words when warning Iran, saying that access is required under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, to which Iran is a signatory. As part of its obligations to the treaty.

After Trump withdrew from the deal, Iran intentionally moved to violate the agreement’s restrictions. In January, Tehran announced that it will no longer abide by any of the limits of the deal after the country’s top commander, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a US drone strike while travelling in a car convoy in Iraq. Soleimani was in charge of Iran’s foreign intelligence and military operations and was known as the mastermind behind Tehran’s policies in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.

The deal allows Iran to keep only a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms, but the IAEA said that, as of February, the country’s total stockpile of low-enriched uranium amounted to 1,020.9 kilograms. The US-based Arms Control Association has said that Iran would need roughly 1050 kilograms (1.16 tons) of low-enriched uranium – under 5% purity – for a weapon and would then need to enrich it further to weapons-grade, or more than 90% purity.